Ukrainians in the U.S. were busy with the events, festivals and humanitarian projects of various Ukrainian organizations. With the election cycle coming to a close in November 2016, political advocacy was of the utmost concern for many Ukrainians in the U.S.
Ukraine’s wounded veterans – Vadim Sviridenko, Vadym Maznichenko, Col. Ihor Hordiychuk and Oleksandr Kosolapov – who were receiving care at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., were greeted by Christmas carolers on January 10. Singers included local members of Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization and the Ukrainian American Youth Association.
The United Ukrainian American Relief Committee (UUARC) continued its great work in delivering humanitarian aid and other medical supplies to Ukraine. Roman Dzivinskyi, who lost his left arm from the elbow and fingers of his right hand during the Maidan revolt in Kyiv, got fitted in Philadelphia for a biomechanical prosthetic hand and arm. Nearly the entire cost of $47,000 was paid for by UUARC donations. Mr. Dzivinskyi, via Facebook, thanked the UUARC and the Ukrainian American community of the United States, as well as the Touch Bionics Ukraine company that helped design the prosthetics.
For the second year in a row, UUARC hosted children living in the frontline cities of the Donbas for a two-week camping trip in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains in July-August. The program served nearly 200 children at a cost of $25,000. Children were also able to enjoy a tour of Kyiv, Lviv and the Ivano-Frankivsk regions.
The St. Joseph’s Adult Care Home in Sloatsburg, N.Y., is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2017. In 2016, the Sister Servants of Mary Immaculate, who have owned and operated the facility since 1941, announced their plans to expand and renovate buildings – among them a former carriage house and horse stables – on their 256-acre property. The work would include increasing the number of rooms for senior citizens from 31 to 50. The location was at one time part of an estate that was owned by the great-grandson of Alexander Hamilton. The expansion was estimated to cost $6 million, and at the time, only $500,000 had been raised. Major advocacy for the project came from Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Stamford Eparchy of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, and a $50,000 initial donation came from Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, with more contributions promised.
The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, in a statement on March 8, called on President Barack Obama to demand the immediate release of Nadiya Savchenko. The UCCA stated that she was being illegally detained after being abducted by Russian authorities on June 17, 2014, and described the farcical show trial. Russia, the statement continued, had clearly violated “her human rights and defies all international standards according to clause 5 of the September 5, 2014, Minsk Protocol, which calls for the immediate release of all unlawfully detained persons.” Her treatment as a prisoner of war was a direct violation of the Geneva Convention and Russia must be held accountable, the UCCA said. The statement also called on the international community to publicly condemn Russia’s illegal imprisonment of Ms. Savchenko and demand that she and other illegally imprisoned Ukrainians be freed.
In a release on July 21, the UCCA said it had met with the Democratic and Republican national committees and each leading candidate’s policy advisors to express the foreign policy concerns of Ukrainian Americans in the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election. The UCCA proposed party platform commitments in areas of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, maintaining and strengthening sanctions against Russia, rejecting Russian rule of Crimea, the withdrawal of Russian troops and equipment from Ukraine’s territory, increased military assistance and training programs with Ukraine, NATO’s membership policy and U.S. commitment to its allies, development of civil society with educational, professional and democracy-building programs, reform of immigration regulation with the Visa Waiver Program, U.S. trade and investment in Ukraine, and energy independence from Russia.
On July 31 the UCCA expressed its concerns about statements made by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, following its June meeting with Sam Clovis, policy advisor for Mr. Trump. The UCCA underscored the reality on the ground in Ukraine, with Russians having invaded Ukraine and Russia’s occupation of Crimea. “…The United States, as a signatory to the 1994 Trilateral Agreement, has an obligation to assist Ukraine in defense of its national security and territorial integrity, and its efforts to institutionalize democratic and economic reforms,” the UCCA statement noted.
On August 8, members of the UCCA executive board, who were joined by Bishop Daniel of the UOC-U.S.A. and Metropolitan-Archbishop Stefan Soroka of the Ukrainian Catholic Church, met at the U.S. Department of State with newly confirmed U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Ambassador Yovanovitch noted her ancestral roots – she was born in Canada to Russian immigrants – and thanked the UCCA for its work in Ukraine. She also acknowledged the continued work of the religious communities in Ukraine, and the Ukrainian delegation urged for the ambassador to meet regularly with religious leaders in Ukraine.
Prior to the G-20 summit in China on September 4-5, the UCCA sent a letter of concern to President Barack Obama, arguing that Russia’s Vladimir Putin had no place at that meeting. “The UCCA finds it reprehensible that world leaders would consider meeting with President Putin to discuss global economic growth and increasing trade and investment, while the Russian Federation continues to illegally occupy Crimea and wage a hybrid war in Ukraine’s Donbas region.” The UCCA called on Russia to de-occupy Crimea and to abide by international law, citing the threats to the international legal system posed by Russia’s actions. “…the security of the U.S. (and the world’s democracies) lies in the expansion of democracy and mutual security guarantees, not the appeasement of imperial states,” the September letter stated.
At the XXII Congress of Ukrainians at the Ukrainian National Home in Hartford on September 23-25, Andriy Futey was elected president of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America. During the meeting, representatives of branches from across the United States (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Illinois) ratified more than two-dozen changes to the organization’s by-laws. Greetings were offered to the 80 attending delegates by surrogates for presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Other board members elected to a four-year term included National Council Chair Stefan Kaczaraj, (president of the Ukrainian National Association and chairman of the board of the Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union), Executive Vice-President Michael Sawkiw Jr. (director of the Ukrainian National Information Service in Washington), Executive Secretary Marie Duplak and Treasurer Myron Kolinsky. The remaining board posts were announced in December at the National Council meeting. The board includes a representative of the UCCA Educational Council, the director of the Ukrainian National Fund, and appointed representatives of: the Providence Association of Ukrainian Catholics in America, Ukrainian National Credit Union Association, United Ukrainian American Relief Committee, Ukrainian American Youth Association, New Ukrainian Wave, Organization for the Defense of Four Freedoms for Ukraine and the Illinois Division of the UCCA.
Also during the congress, the Taras Shevchenko Freedom Award was presented to: Roma Hadzewycz (editor-in-chief of The Ukrainian Weekly and Svoboda), Marie Duplak (executive secretary of the UCCA), Michael Sawkiw Jr. (director of UNIS), and Dr. Larissa Kyj (director of the UUARC).
Interviewed while in Kyiv, Mr. Futey explained the tasks for the UCCA in the next four years. Using his familiarity with elected officials on Capitol Hill and in his home state of Ohio, he said he will focus on the November presidential election with an information campaign to brief the candidates about Ukraine and the concerns to the Ukrainian American community. Other areas of development for the UCCA are new communities that are just beginning to form and encouraging their involvement in expressing concerns to elected officials on the local, state and federal levels. Also on the agenda are working closely with Ukraine’s elected officials to facilitate engagement with Washington, and expanding work with the Ukrainian community’s partners in the Central and Eastern European Coalition.
Outgoing UCCA President Tamara Olexy offered her reflections following eight years in office. The first woman president of UCCA, she said she was honored to serve the Ukrainian community at large. She noted that she is proud of advocacy efforts in Washington and locally among Ukrainian Americans, and said that witnessing the unveiling of the Holodomor monument in Washington was among her most treasured accomplishments in office. Russia’s attacks against the UCCA were among the major challenges, and this appears to be something that the organization will continue to face as part of Russia’s hybrid war. The UCCA continues to grow, Ms. Olexy underscored, and through online resources the UCCA has been able to reach a larger audience. Ms. Olexy thanked the community for its support and underscored that she trusts Mr. Futey’s experience to lead the UCCA through the difficult challenges ahead.
In preparation for the presidential election, the UCCA initiated a questionnaire to see where each candidate stood on Ukrainian American issues of concern. The questionnaire included points on military assistance to Ukraine, economic sanctions against Russia, Russian disinformation, NATO and government reform in Ukraine. Mr. Trump’s advisor’s responses were simple one-word yes or no answers, but Ms. Clinton responded at length, with supportive statements, the UCCA pointed out.
The UCCA released a statement on U.S.-Ukraine relations on November 11, following the election of President Donald Trump. The statement urged no recognition of Russia as ruler of Crimea, called for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukrainian territory. The UCCA said the U.S. should continue to assist Ukraine in modernizing its military capabilities in the interest of collective security, provide defensive equipment, promote democratic institutions and stabilization, as well as support NATO’s “open door” policy of membership for prospective members, including Ukraine. Russia continues to pose a threat to the U.S. and its allies, the UCCA stated, citing a ban on SWIFT banking as a possible response. The UCCA also urged support for S 2692 and HR 5181 that would create a Center for Information Analysis and Response, and said asset freezes and entry visa denials should be applied to Russia’s elite who are suspected of money laundering or involvement in the actions against Ukraine.
With fears of another “reset” of U.S.-Russia relations, the UCCA released a statement on December 13, underlining that any retreat from sanctions or military, political or economic support of Ukraine would signal a capitulation with terrifying consequences for Ukraine. The statement cited Russia’s involvement in Georgia in 2008, Russia-Iran ties, Russia’s meddling in Ukraine in 2010 to place Viktor Yanukovych in power and with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014, as examples of Russia’s destabilizing practices. The statement urged Ukrainian Americans to contact their elected officials, promoting #NotAnotherReset.
During a meeting of the UCCA National Council on December 10, two new organizations joined the UCCA – the Ukrainian American Veterans and the Ukrainian Medical Association of North America. More than 20 organizations are now members of the UCCA. The Executive Board of the UCCA discussed various projects for 2017, including an information campaign targeting the Trump administration and new members of Congress. On the agenda for 2017: the 20th anniversary of the Congressional Ukrainian Caucus, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian World Congress, and the 40th anniversary of the founding of UNIS. Another project is the film “Secret Diary of Symon Petliura” by Oles Yanchuk and the Dovzhenko Film Studio that is scheduled for a 2017 release but needs additional funding to be completed in time for the 75th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army. The board voted to donate $5,000 to the film project.
The UCCA hailed the U.N. resolution on Crimea adopted on December 19, recognizing Russia as a temporary occupying power in the Ukrainian territory. In a vote of 70-26, with 77 abstentions, the world body reaffirmed Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The UCCA said the majority of the nay votes came from countries that identify with the Commonwealth of Independent States (except Ukraine, Moldova and Azerbaijan) and called for Ukraine’s withdrawal from the CIS.
The Ukrainian National Women’s League of America (UNWLA) announced in April a major donation to the Ukrainian Catholic University’s Mental Health Institute in Lviv. The project aims to assist in the treatment of those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. Dr. Oleh Romanchuk, director of the institute, stated: “The mental health care system in Ukraine is one of the most neglected areas of the modern health care in our country. The quality of care and medical services for people with mental disorders remains very poor… and is very far away from the current European standards.” An initial donation of $100,000 was delivered to the Ukrainian Catholic Education Foundation in Chicago. Dr. Ulana Suprun, who is Ukraine’s acting Minister of Healthcare and co-founder of the Patriot Defence project, noted that the institute would not only serve the needs of patients, but would also serve as an educational center for students, doctors and psychologists.
For its 65th annual membership meeting of Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, 270 members gathered at St. George Academy in New York on March 20. In its annual report, the credit union said it ended 2015 with $1.159 billion in assets, an increase of $71.4 million (6.6 percent) from 2014. Net income was up by $1 million to $10.5 million, membership totaled 14,941, with a dividend return of $18.5 million. The institution made donations of $1.5 million to cultural, religious, humanitarian and youth organizations. Many of these organizations were represented at the meeting and people voiced their thanks to Self Reliance New York for its financial support. The meeting voted to re-elect board member Adam Hapij and board chairman Stefan Kaczaraj to three-year terms in office.
The Ukrainian American Youth Association (UAYA), in coordination with the world governing body of the Ukrainian Youth Association (UYA), continued for the second consecutive year the “Warming Hearts with Warmth” campaign. The humanitarian project sent gifts to contacts in Ukraine who distributed them to those children whose parents may currently be on the battlefront or have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of Ukraine. Other participating countries included Canada, Australia, German, Belgium and Great Britain. Gifts were delivered to active centers of the UYA, including those in Kalush, Lviv, Ternopil, Khmelnytsky, Chernihiv, Skvyra, Bobynets, Dnipro and Kyiv.
The UAYA continued its exchange program with Ukraine during the summer camp season. U.S. participants included; Alexandra Gorodiski (Chicago), Lesia Hrycyna (Rochester, N.Y.) and Jessica Demianicz (Jersey City, N.J.); and Ukraine participants were: Lesia Holyk (Ternopil), Daryna Symych and Anya Berezovska (both from Kyiv). The Ukrainian participants spent time at the UAYA camp in Ellenville, N.Y., and at Beskyd camp in Baraboo, Wis. In Ukraine, U.S. participants attended camp north of Lviv near the city of Chervonohrad. The U.S. participants wrote about their experiences, friendships and learning in an immersed environment, and compared it to the U.S. experience.
During the 2016 presidential election, Ukrainians across the United States organized a coalition to oust candidate Donald Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, who was used by the Party of Regions of Ukraine that was headed by the ousted president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. On April 23 in New Britain, Conn., on the eve of a presidential primary, Ukrainians picketed on Paul Manafort Drive in front of Central Connecticut State University. Many of the protesters described Mr. Manafort as a “Trojan horse” for Vladimir Putin.
For the 40th time, New Yorkers celebrated Ukrainian culture, music and dance at the annual St. George Ukrainian Festival on May 20-22 in front of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church on Seventh Street (between Second and Third avenues). Founded in 1976 to mark the bicentennial of the United States, the annual street festival has been a success thanks to the various organizations that support the event, including the Ukrainian National Women’s League of America, The Ukrainian Museum, Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization, Razom, the Lemko Research Foundation, Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union and the Ukrainian National Association.
California Ukrainians commemorated the 100th anniversary of the passing of the Rev. Agapius Honcharenko on May 21 at Garin Regional Park. The events included a panakhyda (requiem service) at the Rev. Honcharenko’s gravesite, a walk to the Honcharenko homestead site that has been declared a California State Historic Landmark, and musical performances by a bandura trio as well as a Ukrainian Brass Orchestra from Sacramento, Calif. The Rev. Honcharenko lived with his wife in the Hayward Hills from the late 1800s to the early 1900s and is cited as being a nationally conscious Ukrainian who served as a pillar in assisting Ukrainian immigrants in the U.S.
Razom, a non-profit organization founded in 2014 to support the people of Ukraine, hosted its annual meeting in New York on June 25 at the Ukrainian National Home. Since its founding, it has launched six initiatives: Razom IT, Razom Culture, Razom Think with UkrOko.org, Reformers without Borders, Razom Aid with Toy Drive and Razom Partners. Participants learned more about planned projects for the future. The meeting also featured artists, including Waldemart Klyuzko and Sashko Danylenko, musicians Roman Bardun Trio, Letters to Nepal and pianist Alex Pryrodny. A fashion show was organized by Ira Lysa. The event was made possible by donations from the Self Reliance New York Federal Credit Union, the Veselka Restaurant and the East Village Meat Market.
The Nadiya Ye Festival celebrated its sixth consecutive year at the UAYA resort in Ellenville, N.Y., on July 1-4. The festival program headliner was Antytila from Ukraine. Other performers included DJ Stas, Bratya z Karpatya, the Iskra Ukrainian Dance Ensemble, singers Yulia Vusko and Olga Obertos. There was a zabava to the tunes of the Svitanok band. Taras Topolia, lead singer of Antytila, met with the campers at the UAYA camp to discuss life in Ukraine since the Revolution of Dignity and the hopes for Ukraine’s future.
Chicago hosted a fund-raiser on July 17 to support psychological rehabilitation centers in Kyiv and Sloviansk in Ukraine that are coordinated by the Kyiv Mohyla Academy. The featured performers at Chicago’s City Winery included R&B singer Lynne Jordan and her band, The Shivers, and Ukrainian pop star Oleh Skrypka. Ms. Jordan and her band had performed in Ukraine in 2000, and noted how Ukrainians are survivors. This led her band to break out the song “I Will Survive.” Mr. Skrypka, who had a brief rehearsal with The Shivers, was joined by jazz singer Olha Tsvyntarna. More than $57,000 was raised from the event, which was sponsored by the Chicago-based Heritage Foundation and the Selfreliance Foundation.
The Ukrainian National Information Service (UNIS), the Washington public affairs arm of the UCCA, launched its #SupportUkraine campaign to bring attention to the situation in Ukraine in light of Russia’s invasion and occupation of Ukrainian territories. Events included Ukrainian Days advocacy events, rallies in front of the White House, as well as outreach to the mass media. While Congress was on recess for the month of August, the #SupportUkraine campaign kept up the pressure on elected officials in Washington to maintain pressure on Russia. Among the other events was a celebration marking the 25th anniversary of the independence of Ukraine that was held in Washington on September 15 with members of Congress.
The Lemko community was very active in 2016, with the 16th annual Lemko Vatra in Ellenville, N.Y., at the UAYA camp on June 25-26. The event was an affirmation of Lemko identity, culture and traditions, as well as a commemoration of the forced relocation of Lemkos after the second world war, known as “Akcja Wisla.” The Lemko Vatra in the U.S. included performers, dancers and singers, and a crowd favorite, the annual pig roast. Other features at the Vatra included a book presentation by Prof. Stephen Rapawy and informative booths set up by the Lemko Research Foundation, including a Lemko History and Heritage Tent, as well as genealogical guidance by Justin Houser and Michael Buryk.
Plast Ukrainian Scouting Organization marked a first in its U.S. camps with a Rock Climbing Camp at Seneca Rocks, W.Va., that began on August 7. Initiated by Dartsia and Marko Jakubowycz, who have traveled throughout the area, climbers had a chance to scale 300-foot rock faces. Led by Seneca Rock Mountain Guides, the campers not only accomplished ascents buts were provided with aerial footage that was shot via drone.
The Ukrainian American community in Parma, Ohio, marked the 25th anniversary of Ukraine’s independence with its annual parade on August 27. The 1.5-mile parade route stretched from the Cleveland Selfreliance Federal Credit Union to the entryway of the Ukrainian Village section of Parma on State Road. Major landmarks in the Ukrainian Village include over 40 businesses as well as St. Vladimir Ukrainian Orthodox Cathedral and St. Josaphat Ukrainian Catholic Cathedral, where the festival stage was located. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), a co-chair of the Ukrainian Congressional Caucus, greeted the crowd and encouraged steadfast support for Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression. Greetings were also read from Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gov. John Kasich.
Sen. Portman, who received a Taras Shevchenko Freedom Award from the UCCA, released a campaign ad in the Ukrainian language that was broadcast on October 18. The ad included his endorsement by the Ukrainian Civic League. Other ads by Sen. Portman were run in local Ukrainian newspapers, as well as Svoboda and The Ukrainian Weekly.
The U.S. Helsinki Commission, formally known as the U.S. Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), was recognized by the U.S.-Ukraine Foundation (USUF) on September 14 at the “Ukraine in Washington” Forum. The CSCE was founded more than 40 years ago and serves to support human rights and democratic practices. Since 1991, the Helsinki Commission has supported the development of a democratic Ukraine, including highlighting the effects of the Chornobyl nuclear disaster in 1986. More recently, the organization has pointed to violations of human rights in Russia-occupied Crimea and eastern Ukraine. “The Helsinki Commission’s efforts then and now must never be forgotten as they were – though often like cries in the wilderness – critically important in keeping the truth of Ukraine alive and in providing a rallying point for so many efforts that eventually helped Ukraine shed the Kremlin’s shackles,” Nadia McConnell, president of USUF said.
The U.S.-Ukraine Foundation, with the Friends of Ukraine Network, in December launched a policy dialogue with President-elect Trump and his transition team, headed by Vice-President-Elect Mike Pence. Many of these policy recommendations were discussed during the Ukraine in Washington Forum that was held on September 14 on Capitol Hill and October 25 at the National Press Club. The U.S. Congress ,it is hoped, will work to inform the Trump administration about Russia and its threat to Ukraine and the U.S.
The Ukrainian American community met with various elected representatives and senators in Washington, including Sen. Portman, Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.). Many of these meetings were held as part of advocacy events to thank and recognize officials for their support of Ukraine. The UCCA chaired the November 3 meeting in Parma of the Ohio nationalities communities, including the Ukrainian, Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Czech, Slovenian, Serbian, German, Slovak, Romanian, Italian, Macedonian and Lebanese communities. Joining the meeting were Sens. Portman and John Barosso (R-Wyo.). Issues of concern centered on Russia’s threat to the United States and its allies in Europe.
The first anniversary of the unveiling of the Holodomor Memorial in Washington was marked on November 7. Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Valeriy Chaly opened the commemorative event that included prayers offered by Ukrainian Orthodox and Ukrainian Catholic clergy, as well as Ukrainian religious and patriotic songs sung by the Kyiv Chamber Choir following its concert in Washington.
The Ukrainian National Credit Union Association (UNCUA) held its annual meeting on September 30-October 1 in Somerset, N.J. The 35 delegates who represented 11 Ukrainian American credit unions elected a new board and celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Ukrainian National Federal Credit Union with a banquet and dance at the Ukrainian Cultural Center in Somerset. The next meeting is to be held in Washington, and it will mark the 65th anniversary of the Ukrainian Selfreliance Federal Credit Union.
Hundreds of Ukrainians gathered on November 12 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York to commemorate the Holodomor of 1932-1933. Bishop Paul Chomnycky of the Ukrainian Catholic Church’s Stamford Eparchy noted, in his opening remarks, that the Holodomor is not a lesson for Ukraine, but for the whole world that such an atrocity should never be repeated anywhere. Other statements of support and remembrance were made by Ambassador Chaly, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), UCCA President Futey, Metropolitan Antony of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Ambassador to the U.N. Volodymr Yelchenko, and William Pope, senior advisor for Europe to the U.S. Mission to the U.N. Responses during the memorial service were sung by the Dumka Chorus of New York. Metropolitan Antony thanked Cardinal Timothy Dolan for the use of St. Patrick’s Cathedral and urged people to take up “the sacred responsibility of sharing the history of the Holodomor” as the only way to prevent another such genocide. A statement by the White House that was read at the event, noted the deliberate nature of the famine but it refrained from using the term “genocide” to describe the Holodomor.